Fishing for trout in Alaska can be admittedly unique considering the impact that returning salmon have on the behavior of these predatory residents of streams and rivers. Flyfishermen are most familiar with the practice of drifting egg patterns during the runs of spawning salmon when millions of eggs are deposited in the natal streams of Alaska.
As prominent as the egg phase is in the life cycle of salmon and to the flyfishers in salmon country, we must bear in mind that eggs grow into small fish. Logically, from the standpoint of the predatory fish, eggs are a very important protein source but are relatively limited in the time they're available. Small fish on the other hand comprise another major nutritional staple but are available year round.
When the eggs first begin to emerge they appear as Alevin which are essentially sac fry or very young salmon with the yolk sac remaining still attached under the throat. Alevin will continue to be nourished from the yolk sac until it has been completely absorbed at which time they're considered fry and begins to feed on aquatic insects and invertebrates. Salmon fry will continue to live and grow in fresh water streams and lakes for up to 2 or 3 years before migrating to the ocean. Its during this time in freshwater that the multitudes of salmon fry and smolt are fed upon by predatory residents.
Lefty's Deceivers have proven to be one of the most widely used and effective streamers throughout the world in salt and freshwater alike. The use of cupped saddle hackles extending past the bend of the hook give the fly a 3 dimensional appearance and movement that's virtually unequaled by other imitations, with design characteristics such as the epoxy head and eyes adding further realistic appearance and performance to the fly. The use of grizzly hackle in this pattern simulates the prominent vertical parr marks noted on immature salmonids.
This Alaska version, the "Rainbow Deceiver" is an excellent impressionistic imitation of out-migrating salmon smolt and can be highly effective at taking Rainbows, Char and other predatory fish that stage in key locations to intercept the downstream movement of juvenile salmon.
1. Eyes - Testors model paint enamel in either white or yellow and black
2. Head - 5 minute, 2 part epoxy
3. Tail - Grizzly saddle hackle
4. Stripe - Red Zelon
5. Hair - Calftail for the sides, squirrel tail for the back
6. Thread - white
7. Hook - #6 or #8 saltwater
- Wrap the thread along the shank to form a base.
- Tie in 6 saddle hackles near the start of the bend using 3 on each side of the hook shank with the concave sides facing in. The hackles should extend well beyond the bend.
- Tie in a bunch of calf tail along each side of the shank to extend past the bend but short of the end of the hackle tail.
- Tie in a bunch of darker squirrel tail along the top of the shank to form the back.
- Tie in a sparse bunch of Zelon along each side to simulate a reddish stripe. Make several wraps at the head of the fly to build it up and secure all the materials firmly.
- Thoroughly mix a small amount of 5-minute epoxy. (The amount mixed depends on the method of rotating the fly while waiting for the epoxy to set up. Motorized epoxy fly rotators can be purchased for approximately $60.00 which allows a person to rotate several flies at once unattended. ) For rotating by hand, mix enough for 1 to 2 flies.
When the epoxy is mixed, pick up a small amount on the end of a toothpick or other pointed implement and slowly add the epoxy while rotating the fly. (The amount added depends on the desired size of the head.) During the first few minutes the fly can be rotated at various angles to assist the flow of epoxy to properly form the head. Continue to rotate the fly until the epoxy has sufficiently hardened to prevent sagging then hang in a position to prevent contact of the head with other surfaces while continuing to cure.
- When all the flies have had the epoxy applied and have cured to a point where you can handle them without smudging, then apply the first step of the painted eye by using a cut off toothpick or the handle end of a small hobby paint brush. Dip into either white or yellow model paint then carefully add a paint spot to each side of the head and return the fly to hang for drying. The eyes for all the flies should be done at one sitting.
- When the first step of the painted eye is dry, use a toothpick or pointed brush handle to apply a smaller DOT of black paint to the center of the painted eye then return to hang until thoroughly dry.
Field Notes: On major streams in Alaska, the beginning of the salmon smolt out-migration becomes apparent from an increase in the activity of birds such as gulls and terns. Just as birds working baitfish in the ocean, terns and gulls will monitor shallow riffles where smolt must travel and take these fish by diving for them. Lots of bird activity will be the clue for the flyfisher to consider switching to a streamer pattern imitating baitfish.
Pattern tied by Brad Hanson
Photo by B. Hanson ©1999